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RYDER CUP NOTES

Civility Is Not a Casualty

September 30, 2002|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England — It might not have been a good day for the U.S. team, but it clearly was a good day for the Ryder Cup.

After the unpleasantness at the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, Mass., civility was in vogue at the Belfry.

As many predicted, nothing happened.

Curtis Strange, the U.S. captain, said the atmosphere was ideal, even if he could not say the same about the result.

"I just think they played exceptionally well," he said. "We got beat. That happens. And the fans were fantastic. The atmosphere was something that we will never forget."

Lee Westwood said the same thing.

"This is by far the nicest Ryder Cup I've ever played in," Westwood said. "The players were laughing and joking with each other."

Tiger Woods credited the fans for staying in line.

"I think this Ryder Cup was played in the fashion [it] was originally designed," he said. "And it was just a beautiful week. Obviously, we didn't come out on top, but it was the best thing for golf to have it played this way.

"The fans were [partisan] but they were fair," he said. "And they were respectful and courteous the entire week. We are certainly appreciative of that."

Strange said it was something he will not forget.

"I hate that we lost, but it was a hell of an atmosphere to be part of."

There was one minor exception to the rule. It involved the always exuberant Sergio Garcia, who ran onto the 18th fairway after Paul McGinley had made the putt to clinch the Ryder Cup for Europe.

Unfortunately, Davis Love III and Pierre Fulke were still playing their match.

Love said he and Fulke had just agreed to continue playing when Garcia arrived and kissed Fulke, then lay down in the fairway. Love said he and Fulke then decided they couldn't go on and agreed to halve the match.

"They won, it's over, it's hard not to celebrate," Love said. "But it's just not the way to finish the match."

Love later said it was no big deal and that he had shaken Garcia's hand.

*

It's not too soon to start speculation about the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain, who will be selected before the end of the year.

The early forecast centers on Paul Azinger and Hal Sutton, both part of the 2002 Ryder Cup team and both locks to become captain at some point.

Sutton will be 46 and Azinger will be 44 at the 35th Ryder Cup in 2004 at Oakland Hills at Birmingham, Mich. Both played in four Ryder Cups. Azinger was 0-1-1 this week (5-7-3 in his career) and Sutton was 1-1 (7-5-4).

Because Sutton is older, he is believed to have the edge.

But Strange joked about Azinger's future with the Ryder Cup.

"When he's captain, he can do what he wants to," Strange said.

*

The leading point producer for the U.S. team was David Toms, who put up 3 1/2 points with a 3-1-1 record.

Woods had 2 1/2 points in his five matches and was 2-2-1. In three Ryder Cup appearances, Woods is 5-8-2.

*

Something you will never see in the U.S. (and more proof that anything can happen in match play):

At the end of the European team's press conference Sunday night, all 12 players stood--led by Bernhard Langer--and toasted the European media for its coverage and support.

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